The Accidental Year of Large Projects

Somehow I’ve started 2019 off with some good progress working my way through sweater quantities in my stash. Honestly, that’s not what I necessarily set out to do, but after the good start with my Weekender sweater I started labeling my handspun and realized I needed to free up some room on my shelves  for this new handspun yarn.

What’s the quickest way to make space on shelves? Knit a lot of yarn. More specifically, knit a lot of heavier weight yarn! And there’s not quicker way to free up space on the shelves that to knit heavier weight sweaters. Enter my Milliken knit!

It was probably a year ago at about this time that I saw the pattern and thought about how nice it would be to have a cozy knitted vest for hiking. There are so many days in the shoulder seasons when just keeping my core warm is enough and in spring especially, it is so freeing after a winter trapped in a parka. I have a knit sweater made from Quince & Co Ibis, their newly discontinued Bulky weight wool/mohair blend, and it’s super warm. I don’t mean to tempt fate as we’ve seen some pretty COLD temps this year, but that sweater is almost too warm for more than the chilliest days. Yes, a vest made out of Ibis would do nicely, I thought. Somewhere during the year I acquired the yarn and then once my Weekender was done, I cast on.img_5702

This is the only in-progress photo that I have I think. That’s probably because it barely took me two weeks to complete it. The pattern is simple and fun and the yarn is as scrummy as I remember it (I’m more than a little bummed it’s disco’ed!). I followed the directions for the body, going a bit generous in the main body for a slightly longer vest, but not a ton. I knew this yarn would block out on the generous side so I didn’t want to overdo it, but I also needed to go beyond the “hits at wearer’s waist” element because that length definitely cuts my body type in an unflattering way. That’s not even considering the cold drafts I’d encounter with a shorter length — I definitely did not want any drafts interrupting my coziness! Minor length adjustment made, I’m very pleased with the results!

img_6333I would definitely recommend this knit for anyone in need of a bulky vest. It’s a quick, easy knit and I think the finished garment has really lovely designs elements. From that garter + slip stitch patterning on the front…

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To the garter side detail and little split hem.

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And the cozy cowl neck.

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There was some disagreement in my house as to whether or not I should add the cowl on to the neck. It’s an add-on after the rest of the vest is completed, so it’s one of those elements you can add or leave off very easily. Mr. Knitting Sarah was solidly anti-cowl neck, but in the end I opted to put it on and see what it looked like knowing it would be easy to rip back out if I didn’t like it.

I picked up my stitches and got to knitting on the cowl. As I knit on it, I realized I really did not want the shaping in the pattern and wondered, what would this look like if I just left the shaping out? I was a little nervous it would be unwieldy or ginormous, but again, what’s the harm in trying? This led to questions about how long to knit on it, if I was not shaping it. Oh, so many questions. I knit on. I ended up using up most of one skein of yarn and a stretchy bind-off. The stretchy bind-off was another roll of the dice because I didn’t want the collar to be crazy, but I didn’t want to be choked by my cowl neck. It worked great! Hooray for improvising as you go and always buying an extra skein of yarn for garments!

I’ve got another sweater on the drying rack already, but I’ve taken a few days off of sweater knitting while I finish up a pair of socks for my hubby and darn a few pairs, too. It seems all his socks are failing at the same time, so I need to get him sorted out before my next large project gets underway. I’m very excited to get going on it though — I’ve got three sweaters picked out already — French Braid Cardigan, Seaboard Sweater, and Cassis — and I’m happy to report they will all be knit from stash yarn! I’m hoping to make headway on them before the weather gets too warm, but I also want to get into my linen sweater quantities this summer so I’ll play it all out by ear depending on how far I get.

Suffice to say though, I’m focused and really enjoying these big projects! It’s really kind of thrilling to take these yarns I’ve been sort of hoarding for the *perfect* moment and just knitting the heck out of them and creating the garments of my dreams. The accidental year of large projects? I’m all in!

 

 

Fairbanks, Finished

On the first of the year, I started a sweater. It seemed fitting that I was knitting a bulky sweater since I was leaping into 2018 in a wood-heated one-room cabin during the coldest week of the year with temps rarely getting above 0ºF. At the very least, my Fairbanks in Quince & Co Ibis was nice and cozy to knit on!

As bulky sweaters have a habit of doing, this one flew off my needles. I probably would have finished it in under a week, but instead I set it aside right around this spot…

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It was for a good reason though, as I set it aside to finish off my Find Your Fade shawl which had been languishing unfinished for much too long. But you know how things go  — you set a project aside for a specific reason and then you get distracted and it takes you a while to circle back to it. I finished the Find Your Fade, 2 pairs of socks, some mittens, and then finally — after a friend shared a photo of a sweater she was knitting — I was reminded that I really need to pick up my Fairbanks again.

Inspired, I did just. In just a couple house I’d finished off the body and by the next evening I was knitting on the sleeves.

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I almost always knit sleeves 2-at-a-time magic loop. It’s not a method for the faint of heart as it is awkward getting going and then just kind of gets less manageable as you go. Never one to do things the easy way, I actually really like it. If you can get over the graceless set-up, it’s a super easy way to achieve matching sleeves. Personally, I would rather deal with a clumsy set-up and an inelegant method than take notes while I knit, so 2-at-a-time sleeves and I get along very well indeed.

Day 2 or 3 back at it, I finished the sleeves and added the simple neckline and I was finished. Ironically, I finished my beautiful bulky sweater on the first official day of spring. The sweater has since been sitting on the chair in my bedroom…

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This chair right here. Oh, and look at that lovely Jensen Tina 2 next to the chair where the sweater sat for a couple weeks. It’s currently out of commission for a bit while the flyer and one of the bobbins are going back “home” to visit Jerry Jensen. I’m getting a new flyer made as well as some spare bobbins and who better to get these things from than the original source! Isn’t the wheel lovely, though, and doesn’t it match weirdly well with the other furniture? Seriously. I just can’t get over the perfection here.

But what was I talking about again? Oh yes, a sweater.

Realizing that photos of me modeling this sweater were not going to happen anytime soon, I opted this morning to get some photos on the dress form. And ta-da!

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Here it is! Are you looking at my stash? Focus people! The sweater! It’s the roomiest, coziest sweater. It looks very blah on the model, but I just love the fit — it’s the perfect curl up and watch the snow fall kind of sweater.

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The hem curves down in the back thanks to some simple short rows, a detail I love as it provides full coverage of my backside when I’m on the trail in running tights. Plus, it just ups the cozy factor for around the house!

I really adore the simplicity of this design with its basic raglan sleeves…

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And elegant, straightforward garter neckline.

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Fairbanks is a very easy to follow pattern with just that little short row section to keep you on your toes and provide that lovely hem design element to really set it apart from your basic raglan. I knitted mine with about 5″ of positive ease and would definitely recommend the 4-5″ range of positive ease for a loose, comfy fit. This sweater is meant to be roomy and especially considering this sweater is bulky weight and mighty warm, I think the generous fit is important. As I mentioned early, I used the recommend yarn — Quince & Co’s Ibis — that is 50% Texas super kid mohair & 50% superfine merino. It’s soft and a joy to work with. I’m guessing there will be some pilling with wear, but nothing my Gleener can’t handle!

All in all, I found Fairbanks to be a quick & fun sweater to knit. It’s just such a classic design that I have zero doubt that I’ll wear it for years to come. And while we’re quickly marching toward weather that is too warm for this snug sweater, I know it’ll get loads of wear. It’s the perfect answer to cold weather — an expert at chasing away all the chill on even the coldest days winter have to offer.

 

 

Hamlin Peak + Kestrel

One of my 1+1+1 Project goals for the second quarter was to finish my Hamlin Peak sweater. I’d bought the pattern & yarn — Quince & Co’s Kestrel — for the project a while back and I was really excited to have a nice linen sweater for summer. And then life happened and it didn’t quite get done in Q2. BUT I resolved to get it finished up in Q3 because — well — better late than never, right?! Also, I’m not great at letting things hibernate on the needles for long. I’m much more of a frog-or-finish within 6months type of girl.

As these things go, the longer it sat the more this project felt insurmountable. I was only a couple rows from separating the sleeves from the main body, but the thought of all that stockinette as the fronts perpetually increased was so daunting. Alas, I said I was going to do it and therefore, I was going to have to buckle down and get it done. After I got through the Tour de Fleece and I finished up my Pebble Beach Shawl, and finished up the last of my Summer Sock Club socks, I really had no more good reason to procrastinate, so I pulled the sweater out of hibernation and got to work.

It so happened that I had a couple good evenings including one power outage in which I was able to push through that main body of stockinette. I bound off — oh so relieved — and then I cast-on for the sleeves, working them 2-at-a-time on 2 circular needles.

img_4384They move slower this way, of course, but mentally it’s a little easier for me to work them together. Piece of mind that they will match is definitely a huge benefit to this method, too. I’ll admit that opting for full-length sleeves instead of the pattern’s three-quarter option was a little painful. Looking at the photos on the pattern and knowing I could be done, but was choosing to inflict a few more inches of sleeve knitting on myself , well, it felt like minor self-inflicted torture. But I got there.

Before I get to the FO photos, I thought I’d take just a minute to talk about working with Kestrel. It’s important to remember that working with linen is inherently different than working with wool. Kestrel is a linen spun into a ribbon structure, which mean the yarn is flat and really does not have a lot of elasticity. I’ve had people ask me how to deal with the flat, ribbon shaped yarn especially if it twists as you knit it. I always say, “Just knit it. Don’t overthink it.” If the yarn twists here and there, you don’t need to go in and ‘fix’ that. I promise it’ll even out nicely in the washing. img_2232You want to watch your gauge for sweaters and items that require a good fit as all linens has less stretch and are less forgiving than wool in that department. My gauge started just a smidge loose, which was actually not a bad thing. I always need a little extra room in the shoulders and upper arms where I’m a little larger than most. Once I got to the main body, I wrapped the working yarn an extra time around my little finger going forward and that alone kept my stitches right on gauge from there on out.

I used a needle one size larger for all my bind-offs and I still bound off loosely to ensure I wouldn’t strangle the edges.

hamlin-peakYou can see the very tip naturally pulls up just a bit because the bottom edge is a bit looser than the neckline, but because of how the sweater is actually worn…

img_4642It actually looks just fine on.

You can see how much drape this yarn has — it really is phenomenal. Once all my ends were secured and woven in, I washed this sweater in the washing machine on a cold/delicate cycle and then I dried it in the dryer on low. It is absolutely 100% true that washing & drying in this manner softens this yarn. In fact, it transforms the fabric from one that is pretty stiff and almost scratchy to one that is undeniably soft. Perhaps my favorite part of knitting with linen is getting to witness this change because it is such a rewarding, happy shift. But now I’m just gushing –back to the sweater.

I really love how simple the neckline is.

hamlin-peak-detOh, and for the record, I did do the reinforcing stitches for the back the neck as recommended in the pattern.

img_4627It really does help it all lay nicely when you’re wearing it. I actually thought about adding the same type of stitching along the bottom edge, but after steam blocking it I decided against it. A good hearty steam convinced the edges to lie nice and flat along that bottom edge

img_4673Finishing a linen sweater just in time for autumn in Wisconsin is admittedly a little anticlimactic, but I certainly can use it for layering on the warmer days we have left this year. And I suppose — as with anything — it’s all about perspective. Am I 2 or 3 months late for this year, or 6 months early for next spring? Let’s go with the latter, shall we? Yes, let’s! What a fabulous sweater and with so much time to spare!

Agnes: The Ultimate in Big, Cozy, Warm Sweaters

img_1834The Agnes Sweater in Quince & Co. Puffin was one of my 1+1+1 Project goals for this quarter and just before departing for our Yellowstone trip last month, I decided to cast on for this sweater. Not a lightweight, compact sweater that would travel easily, but a bulky weight sweater. Yes, knowing full well I’d be driving halfway across the country in a compact car with 4 people, one large dog, and a whole lot of cold weather gear, I thought, “Yeah, a bulky sweater for the trip. Perfect.”

I won’t lie, the size aspect was less than desirable. It made me a little more smooshed than I had to be and complicated getting in and out of the car, but the knitting itself could not have been better.

img_1881I started a couple days before we left so that I was past the raglan increases by the time we hit the road.

img_1884The stockinette body was perfect for the road and before the end of the day I was already at the ribbing on the bottom hem.

I spun for the better part of my free time during the vacation, but the sleeves were pretty quick…

img_2104And they were finished a day before we would get home. It was at this point that I paused. All I had left were the pockets, but I had sizing concerns. Unfortunately, this pattern did not include guidance on the ease. You know, when patterns will say something like, “sample shown in size 36″ with 4″ positive ease” or whatever the case may be — this pattern did not include that info, so there was a bit of guesswork on my part. I wanted a relaxed fit so the questions was exactly how much positive ease to give myself.

To further complicate things, I’ve lost 3″ off my circumference in the past few months, forcing me to kind of reacquaint myself with how to size sweaters for myself properly. When I started the sweater, my bust measurement was around 38″ and I worried that the 40.5″ size would be a little more snug than the big cozy sweater I wanted, so I opted to err on the side of caution with the 44″ and allow myself to knit with a slightly tighter gauge. I’ve dropped a little over 20lbs overall, but that’s slowed considerably as I’ve neared my goal and started to shift focus more on fitness and less on weight loss. I thought the  +/- 6″ ease would be right about where I wanted it.

And then I lost another inch. Whoops! Talk about great problems to have! In any case, I got home and tried it on and looked at it in the full-length mirror and asked Mr. Knitting Sarah for his thoughts and I decided to just add the pockets and call it a wrap.

This was just going to be a nice big, roomy, cozy sweater.

on2And that’s exactly what I have. As you can see I overshot a bit with the sleeves, too. This is something I often do just because there’s nothing I dislike more than sleeves that are just a tiny bit short. I like my wrists covered when I’m making winter sweaters. Plus, this way I have the option of having them partially cover my hands when I’m chilly or fold them back I’m warmer. I wore this sweater last week on a field day with the kiddos which involved a short hike and a tour of the State Historical Museum. It was warmish outside, so I just layered this sweater with my light raincoat to keep the wind out and I was perfectly comfortable.

agnes close upThe pockets — which I knit in Quince & Co. Osprey in the Bird’s Egg colorway — are a really cute detail, but I’ll admit that they are on the small side when it comes to actual utilitarian quality. I wouldn’t change them because you don’t really want pockets that can be weighed down on the front of your nice cozy sweater anyway, but I also am under no illusion that they’ll be super handy in day to day use.

I found the pattern was written very well. Easy to understand and simple in design, especially when you consider the bulky weight  I think it would lend itself well to newbie sweater knitters or those who are just looking for a quick, easy sweater. It was my first time working with Quince & Co.’s Puffin and I will admit that I really enjoyed it. It’s exquisitely soft and quite strong for a single. I will definitely be using it again. In fact, thanks to the fact that I always buy extra when I purchase sweater quantities, I think I have just enough to make Pam Allen’s State Street Cowl with my leftovers. My next Puffin project is already set!

This sweater not only traveled many miles with me — literally — it’s been quite the journey just in how it came to be. I’m happy to say, however, that with all the twists, turns, and doubts that went into this sweater, now that it’s 100% complete and officially in my wardrobe, it’s a certainly a new favorite, a staple. The ultimate in big, cozy, warm sweaters — Agnes, I’m so happy to have you!

3043.8 Miles

I almost don’t know where to begin today.

The last time I sat at my computer was over a week ago (I wrote and scheduled last week’s posts ahead of time) and since then the car’s odometer has ticked away 3043.8 miles, which doesn’t even count the miles added with my feet or the distances viewed with my eyes. It feels like a very long time since I’ve sat here with coffee in hand and tried to organize my thoughts and share a story with you. As is my way and my very special privilege here on the blog, I’ll do my best over the next couple of days — because I can’t possibly cover it all in just one post — to share with you the things I’ve seen & the experiences of those 3043.8 miles.

A little over a week ago we packed up our little car, dressed in new snow tires, with only the necessities. You know what those necessities are — emergency gear, plenty of knitting, books, audiobooks, a spinning wheel, more fiber than I could possibly hope to spin in a month, long underwear, snow pants, heavy boots, hats & mittens, spare hats & mittens, etc. Yes, we just packed the essentials for a very long cold weather drive. In the wee hours of Sunday morning we piled ourselves in (Moose included, of course) and headed West.

I opted to not knit on the smallest project available, but one of the larger. Why? I have no idea except that it was soft & warm.

img_1884-1And by the end of the first day, the body of my Agnes sweater in the luxurious Quince & Co Puffin was almost finished. I’m very fortunate that driving for exceptionally long periods does not phase Mr. Knitting Sarah one bit. We left in the dark and arrived at our first stop, Glendive, Montana in the dark and almost immediately hit the hay. The following morning, however, we were able to enjoy a quick hike in Makoshika State Park. This park contains park of the Hell Creek Formation in which fossils of T. Rex and Triceratops can be found. For our dinosaur loving kids, it was a thrill just to be in this place. For the grown-ups…

It was a worthy hike for the view, reminding us that Montana really is Big Sky Country.

After our hike, we continued on to our final destination, further West toward & into the mountains. Despite some frigid temps, the weather mostly cooperated and we enjoyed picturesque views of the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains growing ever larger in our windshield. img_1919It was the first time the kids have visited the Rockies and it was very fun to see their disbelief at the sight.

And then there was that section of interstate that had 65mph crosswinds and blowing snow…

img_1929Where the road occasionally disappeared and the big trucks swerved a little precariously in their lanes.

But I mostly didn’t panic and we made it without incident.

And rolling into town while it was still light, the full welcoming committee met us at Yellowstone National Park…

img_2189Bison…

img_2009Coyotes…

img_2161And the ever-present elk.

By the time the sun started to set and we turned in to our hotel in Gardiner, Montana — a little mountain town nestled right at the northwest entrance to the park — I was working on the sleeves of my sweater…

img_2104-1And we’d made a special fiber arts stop…

img_1943Which I’ll share with you tomorrow — complete with the main attraction for our trip!

Stay tuned!

In the Badlands: The Final Two Hikes

Warm and clean and with a good night’s sleep under our belts, we decided to undertake the Notch Trail after our first night in the cozy cabins of Cedar Pass Lodge. The recent rains had awoken a number of wildflowers…

IMG_8965Which brightened our hikes immensely and kept us from being too disappointed in the near constant threat of rain.

Now the Notch Trail has some somewhat steep drop-offs and requires a trip up and down this fantastic ladder…

IMG_9009… but we were rewarded for our bravery and exertion (it really isn’t as steep as it looks) with a secluded canyon all to ourselves and some more spectacular views…

That’s me, getting a healthy dose of perspective and looking for Townsend’s Solitaires.

My son, he gave this particular hike…

IMG_8994Two thumbs up.

As we wound up this hike, it started to rain again and we headed to the infamous Wall Drug for lunch and I was treated to a famous cup of 5cent coffee and a delicious pecan roll.

IMG_9034Really, these are so incredibly good — De-lish!

The following morning brought more rain, but since it was our last full day and we had the warm cabin to return to, we decided that we’d go for another hike. Little did I know, the clay-y mud would make the hiking roughly like ice skating. On mud. We had fun with it though…

This camper was ecstatic that she had earned her own hiking stick this trip and was having an absolute blast, yelling out things like ‘Mind the chasm!’ when there were big drops to avoid and ‘Happy Birthday, Little River!’ for all the little run-offs streams.

No one does cold-rainy-mud-hike quite like us!

Of course it was not all fun and games when this one decided to try her hand at ‘mud-skiing’…

It was all excitement here…

Then the sliding happened…

And the full on mud-tumble…

IMG_9045Followed by sobs of embarrassment and anger at her failed attempt (and muffled hysterical laughter from the rest of us). The full coat of head-to-toe mud she now sported did not help her mood. Thankfully, the very, very sweet Mr Knitting Sarah picked her up and carried her back the one or two miles we were from the car. I am impressed because mud-skating with a 50lb kid on your shoulders cannot be easy. The rain was actually pretty cold though so giving her a lift got us to car a lot quicker than if we’d have had her trudge it out. We delivered her straight to the warm shower and final fresh pair of pants she had. Clean, dry, and warmed up we went back for another lunch at Wall Drug after which the little lady & I went to the bookstore…

IMG_9039Twice.

My girl is a voracious reader and after a little lobbying she got to pick a chapter book on Sacagawea for the ride home. She’d already read the 3 chapter books we’d brought for her, so it was really only fair.

We drove slowly back to the cabin, enjoying the brilliant colors of the Badlands one last time…

The colors are made more intense by rain and it was kind of the perfect end to our trip, to see this gorgeous place all lit up.

We awoke early the following morning, packed up, and headed East toward the sunrise, toward home. And I clicked away on my Togue Pond

IMG_9044For which I’m very excited to report is knitting up quickly and was a most excellent car knitting project. It turns out the 1700+ yards of yarn I wound and carried on the trip was maybe just a little bit overkill…

IMG_8752-0But at least I didn’t run out while I was on the road.

And now? Now we’re home. We’re tired and a little sore and a little sad that this grand and extremely memorable adventure is over. For as much as I love to laugh at all the mishaps and mayhem we experienced on this trip, I can honestly say it was the time of my life. I’ve never had more fun and I’ve never loved my little band of misfits more.

So strong…

So adventurous…

So beyond their years in leadership & maturity…

And… well, and so fun…

To an extent, we go on these adventures in search of something. Freedom. Peace. Challenges. Perspective. This trip provided all these things and we did our best to meet each of them with good humor. And while perching on the edge of a cliff staring out at miles of rolling plains or sharing space with a 2-ton beast that is giving you the stink eye certainly serves up a healthy dose of perspective in an instant, I don’t think any landscape or hike could make a person more humble or feel more lucky than spending a week with 3 such amazing people and, of course, Moose. To be a part of this group, is to be a part of something truly extraordinary.

We’re busily planning our next two big adventures — one up near the Boundary Waters and one to Glacier National Park (and if you think I am ridiculous about being wary of bison, just wait until you hear my thoughts on vacationing in grizzly bear country). We’re checking out trails and fishing gear and pricing new camp stoves and figuring if we can use a tent we already have. And I am, of course, starting to think about what yarn I’m going to bring. Most of all, though, I cannot wait to be in those moments, making those memories with my favorite people (and dog) on Earth.